Most people realize that SSL is something that helps users stay secure while they're online. However, not everyone realizes what this certificate actually does, or the differences between types of certificates. This article explains the different kinds of SSL certificates and the certificate validation levels.

What is a Certificate For, And Do I Need One?

In short? Absolutely. SSL certificates are used to provide a secure, encrypted connection for visitors to your domain. Because certificates are only issued to the owners of a domain, or to their authorized representatives, they also allow visitors to be confidant that their connection has been secured by the domain they are visiting rather than someone impersonating them so long as they correctly enter the web address for their intended domain. Browser manufacturers have taken great pains to ensure that trusted certificate authorities are able to issue valid certificates, making it necessary to purchase a certificate rather than generating one yourself. A certificate also effects search rankings.

Lastly, browser manufacturers have begun making sites that are not secured by a certificate as 'insecure', which has a significant impact on visitor confidence.

The Different Kinds of SSL Certificate Types

SSL Certificates come in a few different types, and the certificate you choose will be dependent on what you need to provide SSL encryption for.

The Different Kinds of SSL Validation

There are three different kinds of SSL certificate validation classifications, each kind corresponds to how thoroughly the SSL certificate vendor - for example GeoTrust, Thawte, Comodo, Symantec, etc - has validated the request is coming from the owner, or an authorized agent of the owner, of the site before issuing the SSL to whomever is purchasing it.

The job of the SSL provider is to make sure that SSL's are only granted to people who own the site that the SSL is being purchased for, rather than someone else who may be trying to impersonate the site. The amount at which an SSL vendor validates the site and its owner is broken down into the following three levels: